Modern businesses have a huge amount of choice when it comes to technology products these days. The power of the cloud means that less storage space on the device is needed now, which further increases choice. It’s possible now to work on wafer thin devices that need very little in terms of power, or of course you can choose to have a laptop or a device that’s powered almost entirely by the cloud.
What IS a Chromebook?
Chromebooks are lightweight laptop computers which run on Chrome OS, an operating system made by Google. Designed primarily to be used online, they're best suited to professionals who already use services like Gmail and Google Docs.
The Chrome OS
Chrome OS is similar to Windows or Mac OS X, but sits on a Linux platform. It's essentially a souped-up form of the Google Chrome Web browser.Chrome OS does not run regular desktop software, relying instead on Web-based applications. This means Google Docs, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Calendar, and the like. If you're working without an internet connection, the OS enables Google Drive's offline mode, by default.
Why Have One?
Here's your 10 reasons, as promised:
1. They're Inexpensive
With the gradual demise of Windows XP, the market is ripe for a low-cost alternative. Prices vary, but essentially the Chromebook is a $200 computer. Even the highest-end Chromebooks will run you as little as $250, if you know where to shop for them.
2. They're Lightweight, but...
Typically, Chromebooks weigh a little over a kilogram. Yet they boot up in less than 10 seconds. The Chrome OS itself is lightweight, and runs smoothly - even on mediocre hardware.
3. They're Long-Serving
Windows notebooks might give you 4 hours of active time on a single charge cycle - if you're really lucky. A Chromebook can give twice that amount. Newer Chromebooks can last an entire workday - up to 9.5 hours - on one battery charge.
4. They're Secure
The Chrome OS has built-in virus and malware protection. Files are stored in the cloud, and the Chromebook file system is locked down with eCryptfs encryption.
5. Free Storage and Software
With the purchase of most Chromebooks, you'll get an additional 100 GB of storage in Google Drive, free for two years. You of course get access to Google Docs, Google’s free suite of office software. Google Docs can open Microsoft Office files and export to Microsoft file formats.
Along with Google Docs, Google Drive, Gmail and Google Calendar, you can also download non-Google apps from the Chrome Web Store, most of which are free. Examples include Evernote, Dropbox, Netflix, and eBay. Increasingly, many now work in offline mode, too.
6. Full-Size Keyboards
Not as trivial as it sounds. Chromebooks have physical keyboards (minus a few standards, like the Delete key) on a par with laptops - unlike the tablets to which they're often compared. Better ergonomics translates to increased productivity in the workplace.
7. Television Output
Most Chromebooks can be connected to an HDTV via an HDMI output port. This enables you to play a YouTube video (or similar) on your Chromebook, while watching it on your big-screen TV. A plus, for presentation purposes.
8. Cloud Dividends
With Chromebooks, IT staff can radically reduce the amount of time spent "keeping the lights on", for devices. This translates to higher uptime, lower service costs, and greater control of the deployment of Web-based applications and content.
9. Ease of Use
If you know your way around a Web browser (Chrome, in particular), you'll know how to use a Chromebook. This reduces the need for training, and the speed with which Chromebooks can be deployed.
10. Supervised Accounts (a.k.a. Parental / Management Controls)
Chromebook users can create supervised accounts to track or limit online activity for certain users. You can also synchronise all your apps and passwords with Chrome browsers on other computers. So, if you use Chrome at work, you can sync all data to your Chromebook at home, automatically.
There's support for multiple users, and an option for 3G/4G connectivity for mobile working.
Bonus: They're Low-Maintenance
No lengthy waiting periods for OS patches, upgrades, antivirus or anti-malware installs. Chromebooks update themselves in the background, automatically and silently.
There are Some Drawbacks...
Most notably, the fact you can't use "traditional" desktop software. And the need to be perpetually online (preferably with Wi-Fi), and logged into your Google account, to keep your files updated. Google Docs' offline mode re-syncs your data once you return to the web, though.
There's no Skype, but you can use Google Hangout, as a videoconferencing equivalent. Also, no Photoshop, and no professional-level video editing suite.
Chromebooks typically only have between 16 and 32GB of on-board storage. There's no direct printing facility, either. You have to go via Google's Cloud Print service.
Ubuntu: Best of Both Worlds
Not the title to a video game. Rather, a strategy whereby you can enjoy Office-style applications on your Chromebook desktop. Offline.
Chrome OS is a derivative of Linux, so you can run both environments simultaneously, switching between the two via a hotkey. And as an extreme security measure, you can wipe the whole system with the press of a button to boot.
What's Out There?
Chromebooks are currently available from HP, Lenovo, Acer, and Samsung, in a range of prices and specs. Armed with your new knowledge of what Chromebooks can do, you can make your choice by clicking here.